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Black Widow Imaging Increases Car Sales Velocity Utilizing AWS Auto-scaling Services

Black Widow's vehicle imaging technology was greatly growing. Migrating from a local data center to the cloud was the best way to securely scale.

Black Widow is a vehicle imaging capture and processing platform that enables automobile dealers to take high-quality, 360-degree images of their vehicles. This is a big deal for automobile auction houses; every day a car sits unsold on the lot results in holding costs and missed revenue, and car dealers are always looking to increase their sales velocity. With Black Widow’s patented spider-like camera system, a new car can drive up, and get high-quality and consistent 4K images captured in seconds.

Unsurprisingly, Black Widow has seen tremendous growth since their imaging technology hit the market five years ago and, through early 2020, their infrastructure was powered at a local data center. “But that wasn’t going to work for us much longer,” said Darren Kemper, IT Director at Black Widow. “We wanted to provide our organization with the means to scale while protecting our customer’s information assets.”

That meant moving their servers from their local data center to AWS by the end of 2020.

“We’d worked with Trek10 before,” said Kemper, “and had a really great experience. We knew they were the right partner for this project.”

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Migrating From On-prem to the Cloud

Black Widow’s architecture consisted of custom content management servers hosted on-prem, with Amazon image processing services. Together, Trek10 and Black Widow would need to layout a serverless architecture that would be able to use their existing technology while scaling seamlessly, automating their CI pipelines, and delivering enterprise-level data security compliance.

“We were a little worried,” said Kemper, “whether our existing technical solution would work on AWS without a tremendous amount of rework. But we were able to land on a solution that met all our needs while keeping much of the existing code-base.”

In the final design, a bespoke cross-account pipeline deploys critical infrastructure separately to production and development accounts and can be completely customized, if needed, for each new client. Once the client browser makes an initial request, AWS edge services—Route 53 and Cloudfront respond. While databases are typically the costliest part of an architecture like this, using Serverless Aurora for Black Widow’s client database provides them with an elastic, auto-scaling resource that is a natural fit for their serverless architecture while also cutting costs. This functionality is wrapped up with the best practices for Identity Access Management on AWS.

This solution works for Black Widow’s existing infrastructure while remaining flexible enough to be extendable for other purposes.

Building a Scalable Elastic Beanstalk Solution

The remaining question was how to handle the image processing pipeline for Black Widow’s image capture and hosting. The two teams would need to build a pipeline that let their CMS scale with their serverless architecture.

“Black Widow was tackling some truly difficult technical problems here,” said Jacob Baloul, Cloud Architect at Trek10. “There aren’t a ton of resources out there for their enterprise CMS, and the existing solutions are all nested stacks and tightly coupled architectures that just wouldn’t work here.”

Ultimately, the two teams decided on a customized Elastic Beanstalk that was designed with the scalability of serverless workloads in mind. Black Widow’s architecture would need to be built with SSM parameters and a decoupling stack in multiple pieces across the pipeline. Their CMS would be spun up as a separate environment in a fully automated fashion to avoid any additional overhead. A load balancer serves as a single point of entry for traffic into the VPC and distributes traffic to all available web server instances, automatically registering and deregistering instances as Elastic Beanstalk scales up and down.

“Black Widow, through this entire process, were wonderful teammates to have. Their engineers were so ready and willing to dive right into any problem, to talk about different options and ideas. It made this project a lot of fun to work on,” said Baloul.

Serverless Accelerates Black Widow’s Growth

As of early 2021, Black Widow has successfully migrated their customers from their local data center to AWS. Thanks to thoughtful design, Black Widow was able to simply migrate their existing code to AWS, making the transition smooth for the entire team. The biggest noticeable differences, Kemper said, have been the reliability of the AWS services and improved overall performance.

With their new architecture in place, Black Widow Imaging is looking to expand their dealer and automobile auction market share as well as move into more industry verticals such as the rental car business, vehicle transporters, power sports, agricultural, and shipping. “This is exactly the foundation we needed to scale our business,” said Kemper.

He adds, “Trek10 was well-versed in AWS and always ready to lend their technical expertise to the project wherever we needed. But more than that, they made this migration feel smooth. Trek10 was a lot of fun to work with.”